While visiting producers in Chablis last week a constant topic of discussion was the difficulty of the 2021 vintage. A late Spring frost combined with September rain are not generally a recipe for success in any wine region. Frost can severely hamper yields, late season rains can dilute grapes and encourage rot, in turn damaging what little yield is left.
There’s a flip side though: the lower yields caused by the frost can result in more concentrated grapes. And late season rains typify a cool season, which can mean elevated acidities. So while Mother Nature threw vignerons a tough curveball, there is wiggle room for success. Those who found it in 2021 wound up delivering wines that will remind you of Chablis from a not-so-distant past, when the wines were less overtly ripe and displayed the classic taste of licking an oyster shell in conjunction with energized and thirst-quenching acidity. I would compare the best Chablis bottlings in 2021 to the throwback classic years such as 2010 and 2017.
Below are my recommendations for a few Chablis producers who should not be overlooked in 2021, a vintage defined by lively citrus fruits and chalky mineral drive. A few of these wines even call for cellaring…Lavantureux Vauprin ‘cough cough.’
Domaine Roland Lavantureux
Roland Lavantureux is now retired. His two sons, David and Arnaud, have been running the domaine ever since. With the generational shift the wines continue to excel as Arnaud oversees the vineyards and cellar while David takes the lead in marketing and sales.
I have been enjoying the consistent track record of Lavantureaux’s more recent preceding vintages. Fully aware of 2021’s vintage conditions, I still figured Lavantureux would make some solid wine. But rather than just solid wine, I found wines that made me want to buy as much as I could conceivably fit inside the four walls of One Kourt Studio. Two cuvées were real standouts in the lineup - the Chablis Vieilles Vignes and Chablis Vauprin. There’s also the rare and delicious Bourgogne Epineuil Rouge. Keep an eye out for this in the shop when it is finally released.
The Chablis Vieilles Vignes 2021 is nervy and focused—driven by fresh yellow fruits and citrusy acidity, giving it a zippy, energetic, and salty quality.
The Chablis Vauprin 2021 then takes all of those flavors to the next level, offering more concentration backed by a seemingly never-ending, dazzling saline/savory finish. I cannot recommend these wines enough.
Over the past decade, Moreau Naudet has attracted the love and admiration of wine lovers across the globe, leaving little doubt that Virginie could make anything but great wine in a difficult vintage. Her style is a touch more vinous than that of Lavantureux and Garnier & FIls (below) thanks to the use of a smidge of new oak that adds body but is otherwise imperceptible amid perfectly crisp citrus fruit drizzled with a touch of honey through the piercing finish.
Thanks to decades of experience, the Garnier & Fils domaine is no stranger to grape growing in Chablis; however, brothers Xavier and Jérome are the first generation to estate bottle their family’s fruit. The Petit Chablis is sourced from a three-hectare site in Lignorelles, where our friends at Lavantureux are located. It’s a juicy and playful wine, offering notes of lemon and tangerine with a chalky tang.